Because nobody thought it would do well. Jennifer Lopez wasn’t even paid for the project but believed in it so much she did it for free. And If you only saw the flick after hearing about Jlo in the opening number, you wouldn’t be alone — but it’s really the ensemble cast of badass women including Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Lizzo, Cardi B, and of course Jennnifer Lopez that make Hustlers a must-see. The movie brought in over $100 million — and that’s a huge win for a project starring almost entirely women of color.
Mindy Kaling chatted with Wu about Hustlers recently on an episode of Actors on Actors and admits seeing the film twice opening weekend. Kaling said she “really responded to it,” given that it wasn’t about “rich people” — but about single moms, just trying to get by.
The films’ success was not expected Wu said, “for one this size and for one that people did not think would be this huge smash.”
Kaling pointed out that back in 2004, she was the only person of color in the writing room on The Office — and well, that kind of thing would never happen now. Progress has indeed been made. Wu laughingly asked Kaling if she’s ever got the “rep sweats”— the feeling of pressure that comes from trying to live up to the hopes and expectations of representing an entire segment of otherwise unrepresented people in Hollywood.
“You’re sweating because you have to rep,” Wu said, “But you’re just one story, there is no possible way you can rep every single person who looks like of like you,”. Kaling shared the sentiment, “Well-meaning people who are Indian, Pakistani, or Asian, Chinese, Taiwanese, must write and be like, ‘that’s not what it’s like’ and there is so much hope and expectation put on you, and if you let them down, and you’re going to let somebody down because there’s not so many of you.”
“On one hand, it’s like, ‘We want you to break stereotypes,’ and they’re glad when they see us do things that other Asians don’t do on TV,” Wu said. “But at the same time, other people would be like, ‘Well they’re wearing shoes in the house! All Asians wear shoes in the house’ And I’m like, ‘Maybe not all…'”
“It’s a natural emotional reaction I think any group of marginalized people will have when they know that something they see is going to be representative of them,” Wu continued.
Wu has only starred in two studio films, with Crazy Rich Asians being her first — another groundbreaking box-office hit becoming the most successful studio romantic comedy in close to a decade, according to The Hollywood Reporter. But this conversation makes it pretty clear that Wu has a vested interested in taking on roles and being part of projects that move the needle — a sentiment that also rings true for Kaling.